Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraq’s outgoing vice president says government formation dictated by leading Shiite blocs

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's outgoing vice president told The National on Monday that an online application for ministerial posts is disingenuous and that the formation of the next government is being dictated by the two dominant Shiite parties alone.

There are "no governmental negotiations, instead two political blocs are dominating the country's political formation and they are Sairoon and Fatah," said Ayad Allawi, one of country's three vice presidents.

Following the appointment of prime minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi in October, the Iraqi leader has been given until next week to submit his cabinet and bring together different political factions to parliament.

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Return of unusual Sufi ceremonies banned under ISIS

AP reports:

An Islamic religious order popular in Iraq shows a glimpse of their religious ceremonies.

They test their devotion by performing physical endurance tests and pierce parts of their bodies with knives and skewers.

The Islamic order, Tariqah Al Kasnazaniyah, embraces Sufi traditions, which is a mystical Islamic belief.

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US Says Committed to Syria, Iraq Beyond Anti-IS Efforts

Sirwan Kajjo writes for Voice of America:

U.S. officials said Tuesday they will keep working to stabilize areas they helped liberate from Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

With IS's so-called caliphate crumbled, the U.S. and its allies now seek long-term solutions for the region, emphasizing that the next phase will focus on providing local partners the means to ensure sustained stability in areas previously held by the terror group.

“The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, told reporters at an annual meeting in Washington on countering violent extremism.

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The orphans left behind by the Islamic State

Olivier Laurent and Tamer El-Ghobashy write for The Washington Post:

Since declaring victory over the Islamic State late last year, Iraq has grappled with a host of issues emanating from the drawn-out war to uproot the militant group: billions of dollars in damage to cities and towns, more than a million people still displaced and millions more struggling to rebuild their lives.

But there is also other, less visible trauma resulting from the battles. In orphanages in Baghdad and Mosul, which was the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq, children born to both foreign and local fighters are learning to cope with abandonment and reentry into a society they can hardly understand.

These vulnerable victims, photographed by Maya Alleruzzo of the Associated Press, come from wrenching backgrounds: Some were brought to Iraq from Europe and Asia by parents eager to join the Islamic State and have since died. Others were local children simply left behind. Some were the products of rape, an atrocity frequently committed by Islamic State fighters.

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Is There Hope for Reform in Post-Election Iraq?

Toby Dodge writes for Foreign Affairs:

At last, after months of deadlock following national elections in May, Iraq is on its way to a new government. The president, Barham Saleh, and prime minister, Adil Abdul Mahdi, are both veteran Iraqi politicians known as technocrats and reformers. The international community greeted their ascent with optimism, in the hope that these figures will drag the government out of the corruption, institutional incoherence, and alienation in which it has been mired since 2003.

But the international community has repeatedly invested too much hope in the ability of one or two individuals to change an entire failing system. Today’s narrative conjures up memories of a version from 2006, when Nouri al-Maliki replaced Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister, and 2014, when Haider al-Abadi replaced Maliki. Both leaders subsequently failed to tackle the vested interests and structural constraints that hinder reform.

Even the most well-intentioned reformers in Iraq are hamstrung by the muhasasa taifa, a system of sectarian apportionment that has informally structured government formation since 2005. This system was set up to give representatives of the different communities in Iraq—Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd—a stake in government and hence a commitment to peace. However, the system circumvents the constitution and marginalizes the role of parliament by empowering party bosses to allocate the three top positions and the majority of cabinet posts based on sectarian and ethnic identity. This covert backroom apportionment, fuelled by unrestrained corruption and carried out in the name of ethnosectarian balancing, has delegitimized the post-2003 governance of Iraq and alienated the vast majority of the population from the ruling elite.

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Water pollution in Iraq threatens Mandaean religious rites

Philip Issa writes for AP:

Every Sunday in Iraq, along a strip of embankment on the Tigris River reserved for followers of the obscure and ancient Mandaean faith, worshippers bathe themselves in the waters to purify their souls.

But unlike in ancient times, the storied river that runs through Baghdad is fouled by untreated sewage and dead carp, which float by in the fast-moving current.

Iraq’s soaring water pollution is threatening the religious rites of its tight-knit Mandaean community, already devastated by 15 years of war that has also affected the country’s other minority sects.

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ISIS Ahvaz ‘mastermind’ killed in Iraq says Tehran

AFP reports:

An ISIS mastermind, named as Abu Zahi and linked to a deadly attack last month in southern Iran, was killed along with "four other terrorists" in Iraq on Tuesday, the elite Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.

The five were killed "during a reconnaissance and surprise operation by forces of the resistance this morning in Iraq's Diyalah province," northeast of Baghdad, the statement said.

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Children of Islamic State group live under a stigma in Iraq

Hamza Hendawi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Maya Alleruzzo report for AP:

A family of six lost children lives quietly in a small apartment among strangers in this northern Iraqi city. The “man of the house,” an 18-year-old, heads out each morning looking for day labor jobs to pay the rent. His 12-year-old sister acts as the mother, cooking meals, cleaning and caring for her young siblings.

Their home village is less than an hour’s drive away, but they can’t go back — Shiite militiamen burned down their house because their father belonged to the Islamic State group. And they fear retaliation by their former neighbors, so deep is the anger at the militants who once ruled this area.

So the Suleiman children are left to fend for themselves. Their father is in prison. Their mother died years ago. They are traumatized by deaths of loved ones in the war and by their own family turmoil. In their temporary home, they lie low, worried their new neighbors will learn of their family’s IS connection.

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Population growth in Iraq raises concerns

Adnan Abu Zeed writes for Al-Monitor:

British Ambassador Jonathan Wilks warned at a press conference last month that, at its current rate of growth, Iraq's population would increase by a million people per year. Iraq's Central Statistical Organization announced soon after, on Oct. 1, that the country’s population had reached about 38 million in 2018, and that Baghdad’s population had reached more than 8 million.

While Iraq has not conducted any comprehensive census since 1997, these figures, combined with the rising unemployment rate, indicate an imbalance between the growing population and the availability of services.

Najeh al-Obeidi, an economics researcher at the University of Baghdad, is worried that the state will not be able to respond to population growth or provide decent living conditions for Iraqis. “This raises concerns about the future," he said. "Baghdad alone has a population equal to that of the entire country five decades ago.”

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IS reverting to insurgency tactics after losing caliphate

AP reports:

Nearly defeated on the battlefields of its would-be caliphate, analysts say the Islamic State group has reverted to what it was before its spectacular conquests in 2014 — a shadowy insurgent network that targets civilian populations with guerrilla-style attacks and exploits state weaknesses to incite sectarian strife.

In Iraq and Syria, hardly a week goes by without the group staging an attack on a town or village, keeping its opponents on edge even as it fights U.S.-backed forces advancing on the last remaining slice of territory under its control near the countries' shared border.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an IS expert who advises the Iraqi government, said the group now operates like it did in 2010, before its rise in Iraq, which culminated four years later with the militants seizing one of Iraq's biggest cities, Mosul, and also claiming the city of Raqqa in Syria and declaring an Islamic caliphate across large areas of both countries.

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